More than 1.2 million Georgians, and more than 4 million in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, were expected to travel for Thanksgiving, according to the American Automobile Association. If individual traveling for the holidays, the Georgia Insurance Information Service (GIIS) recommended a few simple steps to help protect homes while away.
During the past year, burglaries and home invasions have been on the increase due primarily to the national economy. Lost property totaled US$4.6 billion nationwide, with the average dollar loss per burglary at $2,079, according to the FBI.
“Homeowners can prevent crooks from targeting their homes during the holiday season by taking some simple precautions,” said David Colmans, Executive Director of GIIS. “Don't tell the world on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network that you'll be away from home.”
Insurers estimate that nine out of 10 of the 1.2 million burglaries per year are preventable with simple burglar proofing techniques. Most insurance companies give discounts for equipment that makes a home safer. Discounts of 2 to 5 percent may be available for dead-bolt locks and smoke/fire alarms. Discounts of 15 to 20 percent may be given if you install a sophisticated smoke and burglar alarm system that rings at an outside service center. However, check with your insurance agent or company before installing to make sure the features that you have chosen qualify.
Theft of personal possessions and damage to the home caused by a break-in is covered by a standard homeowners' insurance policy. If you own valuable jewelry, electronics or other expensive items, be sure to ask your insurance agent whether you need to purchase additional coverage. Actual cash value coverage will pay what the item is worth today, but replacement cost coverage is available to replace damaged property without deducting for depreciation.
In addition to the right insurance coverage, GIIS recommends the following tips to keep your home safe while you're away:
Mount exterior lights out of reach in your yard or on your house. Put indoor lights on a variable timer.
- Make it time-consuming to break into your home
Keep doors and windows securely locked. Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors. Make it noisy to break into your home.
- Invest in a burglar alarm
More than 90 percent of burglars say they avoid a home with an alarm system. Make sure you have strong doors, as a good lock will not deter a burglar if it is installed on a weak door.
Keep shrubbery trimmed well below window level so that burglars cannot hide.
- Keep important documents hidden or under lock and key
Do not leave important personal documents in your unlocked desk at home. Put critical documents in a safe somewhere else in the house. Keep copies of important documents at another location, such as a relative's home, for quick access if you need to report identity theft.
- Make personal information on your home computer hard to access
Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. You don't want a hacker at work while you're on vacation.
- Make sure valuables are not in easy view from outside your home
At Christmas, don't leave valuable gifts under the tree. Put expensive jewelry in a secret location, not in the jewelry box on your dresser.